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Welded Up, Watered Down and Racing to Dinner

Being an early riser, and the trip's coffee maker, the best alarm clock for me is hearing anyone’s voice out and about camp before I am. I get the “Oh crap, I overslept” rush and I am shoulder rolling out the door to put water on for coffee. Ever the timekeeper, Matt had sprung early to go over the maps for the days reroute and inadvertently roused the entire crew. So I put the coffee on, made it a little stronger than normal to balance out the short nights sleep and broke out the Tembo Tusk Skottle (African cook top) so Matt could cook up some chorizo for breakfast burritos. Mornings in the desert are pretty epic, so it was nice to share it with the crew and a fresh cup of APOLO single origin coffee from Guatemala.

The previous days' exploring had not come without consequence, there were a few dings and scratches from when we tried to penetrate some of the smaller washes, but the Yeti/Yolo Jeep, named Tina got the worst of it, catching a lower control arm mount on a rock, badly cracking it. Keeping an eye on it as it inched towards full failure, a welder was our first priority. We headed towards Valley De Trinidad, pausing along the way for checkpoints and to watch the occasional last second prerunner before cruising into the small, but landmark town. Since the race track doesn’t pass by it, but straight through it, it is a mandatory taco stop for every driver as they prerun, because lets face it, the next time they pass through town, will be at 100mph.

Yeti and Yolo order tacos in Valley De Trinidad while I enjoy some Mexican Coke.

We found a local welder and while Yeti was reeling at the $5 cost of repairs for a simple stick weld, which he tipped an additional $15 on, we ordered up tacos and enjoyed a chance encounter with Red Bull Athlete, Rhys Millen, who was getting in a little extra track time. From Pikes Peak to Whistler, the Millen family races and wins on everything with wheels so it was fun to BS with him, if only for a short while. From here we all topped off our tanks, helped the local law enforcement, who didn’t know the race was the following day, and again edging on behind schedule, we darted Matt to help him relax and scooted off towards Mike’s Sky Ranch.

The signage is pretty simple in Baja, but it gets you where you want to go. Turning off one dirt road to another and heading to Mike's Sky Ranch.

Mike’s is yet another iconic destination, for both racers and explorers. Well off the grid if you are traveling by pavement, it is a small hotel-ish pit stop that has been around for decades, serving as a watering hole for those with a heart for adventure. Far from what people picture when they think of Mexico, it is nestled high up in the hills, in the trees and offers a rewarding splash down in the year round stream as you enter from the main road. After getting a little carried away and giving Matt a bath as he tried to shoot pictures, we grabbed a drink, shot a mandatory group photo, took advantage of clean toilets and a half full pool and were right back after chasing the clock, only this time, it was me cracking the whip. You see, the night’s destination was Rancho El Coyote Meling, a quiet ranch with quaint adobe bunkhouses, clean showers, potbelly stoves to heat the rooms and most importantly, the best damn food in Baja. I was introduced to El Coyote two years prior and my standard for Mexican food has now been set unfortunately high. Every thing is ranch fresh and hand made and damned if I was missing it. All I knew was the kitchen closed at 6 pm and we had some serious driving ahead of us. Because of this we decided to take the easier/faster route to camp, which turned out to be the harder, slower, longer route. While a dusting of rock crawling and steep rutted out roads was exactly what the group was after, my dinner was on the line.

Stickering up everything is the norm in Baja. Kind of like bread crumbs so your boss can find you when you decide to stay.

After a few hours of flexing our way down twisted, rocky and rutted roads, opting for safe rather then fast driving and coming to terms with the fact that we were not going to make it, assuming a few more miles of travel based on topo map navigation, we rounded a corner and nudged through the back gate of El Coyote at 5:58 pm. Doesn’t get any closer than that. We showered and designated rooms for people who snore, and those who think they don’t snore, and proceeded to eat like kings. After dinner drinks and OCC coffee were served around a roaring campfire before we all turned in, excited for an amazing breakfast and a route that would take us from the mountains, down to the legendary coastline.

We were treated to a killer sunset as we slipped into camp with only two minutes to spare.

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